Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Walk to Remember - Down Memory Lane

April 15th, 1954, 56 years ago I was born.  My parents, Fred and Wilma (yep..that is really their names) were 25 and 29 on that day.  I was named Karen Leigh Sasser.  My godmother, Frances was delighted with my name after hearing some of the names my mother was debating over.  My dad had just celebrated his birthday the day before the big event.  I spent my first three years in a basement apartment owned by Ethyl Berry.  She was like my grandmother and I adored her.  We lived there until my brother Dougie was one and then we moved into the house next door to the apartment.  I was not quite four.  We lived there on Georgia Avenue, right across the street from what was then Palm Beach High School.  It was a perfect place to be a child.  There was a bakery on one end of the block and a candy store/snack bar at the other end.  My church was a block behind our house.  The bus stopped on both ends of the block.  I loved life there. 

When I was young music was very important to me. That has not changed a whole lot in the past 56 years. I got my first guitar when I was not quite 4. It was not much of one but I loved it.This picture was made in the basement apartment.  It was not much of an apartment, by today's standards...but I can assure you there was a lot of love in that tiny two bedroom, one bath apartment....a lot of love.  My dad was in apprenticeship school then and we had one car...can you believe that?  One car?  It was a 1940 something chevy...yucky green colored.  It had to be rolled down the hill to start sometimes. My dad was a great electrician...he was never much of a mechanic.  He used to say he was a jack of all trades - master of none...but that was not true...he was a Master Electrician....and Dad.
From Georgia Avenue we moved to El Prado in the Vedado Park neighborhood.  It was there that I attended Belvedere Elementary School, Conniston Junior High, and Forest Hill High School.  It was there that I made my first children friends.  Dougie and I were the only kids on Georgia Avenue.  El Prado brought Carol, Susan, Kathy and a whole host of other kids into my life.  Life was good on El Prado until January 5th, 1963.  My brother died just 16 days shy of his 6th birthday.  When I look back at these old pictures I see a ragamuffin little girl.  I was such a tom boy and really hated wearing dresses.  My mom was an excellent seamstress and made the majority of my clothes.  What I would not give to have THAT mom back again.  The material was some she had bought on a visit to my grandparents in Alexander City.  It came from the Avondale Mill Store.  It was called seconds because there was a flaw somewhere in the fabric.  I remember one dress she made for me that had a foot print on the underside of the fabric.  It was amazing what she could do with a needle and some thread.  By now my dad was working for Arrow Electric.  He was a Union man....with the IBEW(International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.)  I lived and breathed for that Arrow Suburban to come down our street.

When I was in the sixth grade I was a school safety patrol and got to go to Washington, DC.  It was the biggest event of my life, at that point.  Carol also got to go.  We were roommates at the Shoreham Hotel during our stay there.  Can you believe that the two of us are only 6 months apart in age?  I was 5'5 in the 6th grade...and never grew another inch.  Carol was not even 5 foot at the time.  We looked like Mutt and Jeff don't you think?  This picture was made in front of her house.  How do I remember this?  She had a sidewalk....we didn't.  Carol and I both played guitars back in the day.  When we were in elementary school we dressed up like the Beatles one year for the Halloween parade.  We were awesome.  We also made guitars before we had real ones and would put on shows for our parents.  We sang together as teens with New Dawn and were dubbed the Hick Duet when we performed our first duet in church...the song..."Put Your Hand in the Hand."  I have never sung that song again...and blush anytime I hear it.  Larry Bergstrom, Kenny Bergstrom, and Jim Warren made so much fun of us that night.  It is a wonder I ever sang in public again....but I did.   

We graduated from Forest Hill in 1972. I drove a 1968 Plymouth Satellite (lovingly dubbed the Sasserlite).  It was fire engine red, had white leather seats, had a 383 engine in it, Krager mags and knock off spinners.  I loved the beach.  Carol King's song had just hit number one - "You've Got a Friend." I loved singing with Carol King and Karen Carpenter. I wanted to be just like them.  We went on to attend Palm Beach Junior College (dubbed Peanut Butter and Jelly College). I wanted to be like Shirley Muldowney and drive drag racers then.  My dad and I would go to the drag races on Friday nights....that is until I got a drivers license. 

Kathy Duck, Donna McAdams, Carol and I on her wedding day.  I sang at her wedding in 1975.  She has been married for 35 years.  That is astounding in today's world.  Don't you love the dresses....very 70's don't you think?  Carol was a beautiful bride. We all went our separate ways over the years.  Carol is really the only one of these four that I kept up with.  I moved to Alabama...and my life took a different road.  I have carried them in my heart though...all these years.  I have often wondered where the other two are and what they became.  I sang at most of my friends weddings.  I even sang at Chuck and Susan's wedding...but that is a story all to itself.  I will have to tell you one day.

Me, Carol and Susan at one of our high school class reunions.  I have 56 years of some of the best memories ever with these two girls.  Susan and her husband Chuck live in Knoxville, TN and we are still as thick as thieves.  When we are does not matter how long it has been since we have been together...we pick up right where we left off.  She is Kat's godmother.  Carol and her husband Jeff retired this year and moved to Summerville, SC.  We have also kept in touch all these matter where she lived.  She does not look any different from the day we met.  She always had the greatest smile.  I have been blessed to have them as friends all these years.

Time has marched on.  I have traveled the world.  I have earned a Masters Degree.  I have done many of the things I have wanted to do in my life, I have lived so I would have no regrets.  I have loved most everything about the 56 years I have been given on this earth.  I am blessed.  Today, on my birthday I just felt like taking a stroll down memory lane with you...those of you who know me...know most of this....those of you who have just met me....will see a side of me you have never seen.  This is Karen...unplugged...doing what I love to do most....enjoying life.

On my 55th birthday last year the group I sing with, Still Magnolias, opened for George Jones.  How cool is that.  If you don't know who he is....he is a Country Music legend....sleezy...but a legend just the same and I opened for him.  Life just keeps getting better and better.  Although this year has been a hard one...I survived.  I can't believe a whole year has passed and now I am looking at another year blessed I have been.  I have such good friends and two wonderful daughters.  I am the luckiest person alive I believe.  I have not always made the best decisions and life has not always been perfect.  Heck!  It has been a far cry from a bowl of cherries....but I get out of those pits and move on quickly I can assure  you.
So here I am the ripe age of 56.  What does life hold for me? Only God knows.  I am attending a retirement seminar today....that is not in my far to distant future.  I have enjoyed the first 56 years and cannot wait for what the next half brings.  In the years since I left Florida I have attended Auburn and Auburn at Montgomery, Alabama, and Whitman College in Washington state.  I married a wonderful man, Frank, who is like one of my best friends.  I became a preacher's wife and love that roll. I have made many friends whom I love dearly.  I have a wonderful job at Benjamin Russell High School where I teach.  I sing with Still Magnolias, I travel with Mary, Kat, Debo, and Amanda every chance I get. I sing in the Arbor Praise and Worship band, I bowl on two leagues....I enjoy every moment of life there is...and would not want it any other way.  Happy Birthday to me and I wish you all a wonderful Thursday!  XXOO


Mary said...

What a wonderful trip; thank you for inviting us to share it with you!

Jacki said...

Happy Birthday, Karen!
What a wonderful way to spend your day. I really enjoyed the stroll!
I can relate to so many of the things you wrote....but I envy your car! Mine was a '69 Ford Falcoln! Burgandy and rust! lol

Life was so sweet back then. Today's kids have no idea what they missed!
Be blessed today!

Mid-Atlantic Martha said...

Happy, Happy Birthday to you! Thanks for taking us along for your walk. It was wonderful!

jk said...

Karen - that is such a cool memoir! Thanks for sharing - you were always the sweetest girl and funny too - still are. Hope your birthday was sunny and bright and perfect!

Queenie Jeannie said...

Happy, Happy Birthday Karen!!!


What a nice visit you brought us all on !

Xazmin said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story! I loved learning all this about you and hope you had a wonderful birthday yesterday!